CEBA benefit for farmers remains unclear

The federal government has no clear numbers on how many farm operators have benefitted from the Canadian Emergency Business Account program, but continues to say 67,700 farms are eligible for it.

Ottawa estimated changes made in May to expand the eligibility of the program would more than double the number of farms qualified to access the money, but two months later says it does not have statistics on agricultural producers who have successfully applied for the loans.

CEBA allows a farmer to access up to $40,000 in interest-free loans. If paid off by the end of 2022, the farmer would be entitled to up to $10,000 of that amount forgiven. Changes were made to the program to better tailor it to farmers after concerns were raised the pay roll requirements excluded producers from applying.

When the changes were announced, federal Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau said it was a “big deal for farmers across the country.”

As of July 8, 690,000 applicants have been approved for the program, with $27.57 billion being disbursed from it. How many of those are farmers remains unclear, however, as no statistics are available, according to Bibeau’s office.

Bibeau previously touted the program could pay up to $2.68 billion in interest-free loans to Canadian farmers, but that also remains unknown and some producer groups continue to raise issues with accessibility of the funds.

Meanwhile, it appears there have been no issues with attempts to access the $50 million for the Surplus Food Rescue Program.

Announced in May, the program is designed “to divert food that would otherwise be going to waste, process it for longer shelf-life if required, and distribute it through food serving agencies to distribute to Canadians experiencing food insecurity, with a target of 10 percent of all food rescued to reach northern communities.”

Touted as one of Ottawa’s supports for agriculture, applicants are being “considered from organizations that have a turn-key approach to acquiring food and ensuring that partnerships are created along the value chain to ensure food most efficiently reaches those experiencing food insecurity.”

The program is at capacity due to the number of applications received, and there are indications farmers were able to get involved from a wide-range of commodities.

Ottawa is hoping to spend the money as soon as possible, but there is no official timeline on when the dollars will begin to roll out.

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